This Week & Next (Feb 14, 2014)

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Happy Valentines Day!! 
The week kicked off on Monday with a comprehensive review of school funding by Mitch Bean, former director of the House Fiscal Agency, in which he makes the case that K-12 spending under Governor Snyder has gone up, gone down and remained just about the same. It really comes down to what you want to measure and semantics as to which investments impact the classroom. Again, we urge you to do your own math.

On Tuesday, it was reported that Gulfstream was awarded $240,000 in college scholarships for graduates at the West Michigan Aviation Academy, one of the state’s most innovative public high schools in the state. Congrats to WMAA!!

On Wednesday, GLEP had the opportunity to testify before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on K-12, School Aid & Education.  The focus of our testimony was on equitable funding and the impact of MPSERS. GLEP urged the committee to focus on funding children rather than districts and to continue closing the $1,000 per-pupil funding equity gap in the state.  See the picture below about four students in Ingham County and the injustice of the current system. In a nutshell, by prioritizing 90% of state/local operational funds in the foundation grant, the legislature could provide $8,266 per year for all 1.5 million students in the state. Click here to access our full testimony.

Check out the post from Janet Barresi, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction, as they prepare to implement new laws to improve early literacy and 3rd Grade Reading proficiency, with retention as a last resort (precisely what we’re proposing here in Michigan.). According to Supt. Barresi: “The question often posed to me is: How can we consider holding back a child from moving on to the next grade? The question I pose to them is: How can we consider promoting a child who can’t read? Kudos to Supt. Barresi, and if the Okies can join 35 other states on this critical issue, why can’t Michigan? (They also have A-F Letter Grading in Oklahoma as well. Just saying.)From the “With Friends Like These” department, Amber Arrellano (Education Trust-Midwest), a group that claims to support early literacy, takes some shots at the 3rd Grade Reading bills supported by GLEP in the legislature. Despite acknowledging the dramatic gains in Florida (which are the model for Michigan’s bills) she totally misrepresents the estimated cost ($500 million per year for retention, really?!) and ignores the comprehensive nature of early screening, interventions and mandated Reading Improvement Plans required in the bills, as well as the $317 million in the FY ‘15 School Aid Budget that Governor Snyder has earmarked for 3rd grade reading proficiency and college-career readiness. We’re in contact with Michigan Public Radio to schedule an interview based on the actual facts here.The National Association of Public Charter Schools released a report on Wednesday that showed charter school enrollment has increased by 288,000 across the country this year, which means 2.5 million students attend 6,400 charter schools in the country. In Michigan, 141,000 students are currently enrolled in our 297 charter public schools this year, which is 9.3% of the state’s entire K-12 enrollment. We’re confident the charter sector will break through the 10% market share number next year. School choice works!!

Despite widespread public acceptance of choice and charters, it’s very frustrating to hear prominent folks continue to bash the charter sector in the media. According to Tonya Allen, President of the Skillman Foundation, “Michigan has some of the most lax policy around public schools and charter schools in the country…a marketplace that’s not regulated. So, in my opinion, it’s not improving schools; it’s weakening schools.” We (respectfully) disagree. Click here to read the full interview in Bridge Magazine.

Dr. Deb Ball, Dean of the UM School of Education, was scheduled to testify in support of HB 5223, the teacher evaluation bill, in the House Education Committee on Wednesday. The committee was cancelled, however, and they’ll pick it up again next week.

In case you’re wondering why we need a new Teacher Evaluation system in the state, check out this article showing how districts are simply rating every teacher as “effective” to avoid the impact of recent tenure reform that require layoffs to be based on effectiveness rather than seniority.  Clever trick, eh!? According to Rep. Ken Yonker (R-Caledonia), a member of the House Education Committee, “As we have heard for three years, education is not about student success, it is about adult comfort,” he said. “They spend more time worrying about adults being protected.” Spot on, Rep. Yonker!!

Today the Citizens Research Council of Michigan hosted a webinar to explain Governor Snyder’s proposed $51.2 million budget for FY 2015. Email me if you’d like a copy of their presentation materials.

ICYMI: The Education Committee in Alaska House of Representatives passed HJR 1 this past week, which would amend the state constitution and pave the way for tax dollars to be used by students seeking private education. If passed by the full legislature it will be on the statewide ballot this fall. This is certainly something we’ll be watching very closely, as 19 states currently allow for full educational choice for students.

ICYMI: Geoffrey Canada, Founder and CEO of the Harlem’s Children Zone, has announced his retirement – but will be staying on the Board of Directors. A true visionary and passionate advocate for kids, he will be missed in the day-to-day battles over improving educational outcomes for at-risk children.

The Saginaw Board of Education was given an one-week extension from MDE to submit a workable deficit reduction plan, and they are poised to vote Monday on a plan to that may include right-sizing the district through some building closures.

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee will continue their examination of equity in school funding.  Have we mentioned GLEP’s recommendation to create a uniform state foundation grant of $8,266 per pupil – which could easily be done by investing 90% of state/local operational funds in the foundation grant and holding categorical spending to 10%?

If you’re a candidate for State Senate or State House of Representatives in 2014, and you’d like to be considered for an endorsement from GLEP, please click here to access our Candidate Questionnaire. The early submission deadline is March 1st.If you’re an education media junkie, and you want to receive the best daily news feed of education issues in Michigan, please visit StudentAndEducator.Org and sign up for their daily emails.That’s it for “This Week & Next.” Let’s keep putting kids first!!

Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director